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European-American Topics - Politics - Andreas Kakouris


Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States visits the University of Washington
Asli Omur
Posted November 15, 2007

  Andreas Kakouris


     The Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States, Andreas Kakouris, recently spoke at the University of Washington to discuss the meaning of Cyprus in the European Union (EU) and the role the island state plays in the European political scene, along with the current issues that have kept the island divided since 1974. The lecture was hosted by the Center for West European Studies, Hellenic Studies and the Center for Global Studies.

     Cyprus is a nation of 800,000 people; a tiny island nation in the shape of an electric guitar below southeastern Turkey. Cyprus is a stones' throw to strategic allies like Israel, Lebanon and even Turkey, the big brother that hovers above it. In his speech Kakouris highlighted that Cyprus acts as a "lighthouse" for the eastern Mediterranean and maybe "a small piece of the EU mosaic, but still an integral part of it." Cyprus' other claim to fame is that it has the last divided capital city in the world, Nicosia.

     Leading up to a Turkish military invasion and subsequent occupation in 1974, Turkish and Greek Cypriots engaged in a bloody civil war that targeted all sectors of society, leaving 200,000 displaced, relocated and even lost persons and a large death count. Kakouris did not, however, refer to the "troubling events" of the time period as a civil war. In 1963, the Cyprus Constitution which jointly represented both Orthodox and Muslim peoples of the island broke down to the inter-communal conflict. The Turkish Cypriots fear of enosis, or "Greek-ification" of Cyprus coupled with Greek Cypriot trepidations of the Turkish Republic's involvement in the governmental affairs of Cyprus left the island unstable and unpredictable. In 1974, as tensions rose between the two main ethnic groups, the Turkish Republic dispatched its troops to the island, where they have remained ever since.  The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is a creation of and only recognized as a state by the Turkish Republic.

     Daily, thousands of Turkish Cypriots cross into the Greek side of the island looking for work or maintaining employment that will pay them with the English pound as opposed to inflation prone Turkish Lira. The pound has been used due to years of colonialism by the British. English still remains the main language of education for Greek and Turk Cypriot alike. British citizens make up the largest number of tourists to the island that are not of Greek or Turkish heritage. The mainly Greek south joined the European Union in May 2004. They will implement the euro in January of 2008.

     Kakouris also noted Cyprus' ongoing contribution to the war on terror, aiding in the evacuation of 75,000 Lebanese and foreign tourists in 2006 referring to the last minute mini war between Israel and Lebanon that rocked the region, as well as negotiating with the 13 Palestinians barricaded in the Church of the Nativity in Jerusalem. Cyprus has a "finger on the pulse of their [Middle East] sensitivity because of the mosaic'' Cyprus contributes to.

     Kakouris claimed that the Annan 5 Plan, the latest efforts to reunite the country, was not based on a solution but more of a way to "offload the Cyprus problem from the shoulders of Turkey." 76% of the Greek Cypriot population opposed the Annan 5 Plan.

     Cyprus is also attracting the exploration of hydrocarbon power. Cyprus recently tried to sign a deal with Egyptian and Lebanese oil and gas reserves companies. According to Kakouris, the Turkish Republic asserted that "Cyprus has no right to enter into international agreements, bullying Egypt and Lebanon into saying no."

     The Turkish Republic presence in the European Union alongside Cyprus took up a great deal of the lecture, in which Kakouris said that, Turkish "europeanization process can only be used as a catalyst for solution in regards to the withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Cyprus." He added that a "recalibration" of Turkish mentality is deeply necessary for any change and restating that the ''key lies in Ankara."  He also said that, Cyprus has even stated that it is willing to "debase their military, if that means a Turkish troops withdrawal." Despite Kakouris pro-Turkish accession into the EU, he did warn that Turkey needs to realize that the Turkish military will have to be "subservient if it intends to belong to the European Union," that Turkey can no longer dictate by might to right."

     The audience of 50 or more included Turkish Cypriots, Greek-Americans and Turkish students, along with many others, who brought up pending issues of the Armenian Genocide, ethnic problems within Turkey, Turkey's refusal to allow Cypriot vessels to dock at Turkish ports, British soldiers who are still deployed in Cyprus and the war on terror.


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